Qatar Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said he has confidence in Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner, calling the incidents that grounded the aircraft “isolated events.”
The fact that Boeing has been unable to replicate conditions that led to a lithium-ion battery breaking into flames points to a one-time fault that doesn’t threaten the safety of the program, the executive told journalists at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin today. Al Baker said he’ll be among the first to board the aircraft again once it resumes service.
Al Baker, who routinely uses public appearances to chastise aircraft manufacturers for shortcomings, struck a milder tone in Berlin, saying airlines should get behind Boeing in a time of crisis, and that Ray Conner, the head of Boeing’s commercial operations, is “very capable.” Al Baker said Airbus had heeded his advice with a switch back to more traditional batteries on its A350 aircraft, for which Qatar is the first customer, to avoid certification delays.
“This is a time when customers must stand by Boeing, in order to help them find a solution instead of sitting there and criticizing them,” Al Baker said, adding that “this doesn’t mean I won’t get compensation” for the 787 grounding.
Besides the five 787s already in its fleet, Qatar is scheduled to received the same number this year. Boeing’s flagship aircraft has been grounded globally since the middle of January, as Chicago-based Boeing works to present a fix that will satisfy U.S. aviation regulators.
The Middle East will also receive its first A350 aircraft in the final quarter of next year, and Al Baker said manufacturer Airbus SAS may surprise the public with a first flight of the wide-body aircraft at the time of the Paris Air Show in June this year.